eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification: an honest review

I just completed my certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell and now I’m reflecting on the experience. Was it worth the cost? Did I learn anything? Would I recommend it?

If you’re thinking of enrolling in this 6-week online course, this post is for you.

In this post, I will break down everything from how to enroll to getting your certificate. I cover the pros and cons, as well as the real time required each week, quality of instruction, value of the content, and more.

Let’s dive in!

1. How and where do I enroll?

The Plant-Based Nutrition certification is offered by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (TCCCNS) and eCornell. You can enroll both on the eCornell (Cornell University’s online education) website or on the TCCCNS website. Both websites direct to the same enrollment page. Enrollment dates begin every 2 weeks, year-round. Courses are released on their respective start dates. Here is a screenshot of my Dashboard, taken after I completed all 3 courses:

plant-based nutrition certification

2. What does it cost?

The advertised price is $1260, although in my experience there is almost always a 15% discount code that you can use. You can find this code on the TCCCNS Facebook Page, as well as on the website itself. I found my code directly on the website itself. It had an expiration date of May 31, but I noticed the date extended every few weeks, which told me that it never really expired. It took me a few weeks to decide to enroll, and during that time the discount code ad would pop up on Facebook/Instagram, and Google searches. It “followed” me around the web.

3. How is the course delivered?

The certification consists of 3 courses that you take in sequence, each 2 weeks in length. You can space them out however you want. For example, I took a 2-week break between course 2 and 3 because I was on vacation. The format is 100% online and there is minimal work required, aside from periodic multiple choice quizzes and short-answer responses. The content is delivered in video format, with a couple short readings as well. You must receive 100% on all work, however you have unlimited attempts to do so. Here is a screenshot from the homepage of course 3, Applying the Whole Food Plant-Based Lifestyle:

sample course page.png

4. How much time does it take per week?

Time requirement is about 3-4 hours per week. There are a few hard deadlines for quizzes and short answer responses within each 2-week course, but they are very reasonable. In my experience, I was able to meet the deadlines days ahead of time. The video lectures are broken into bite-sized chunks, ranging anywhere from less than 1 minute to about 12 minutes. Most videos are around 3-5 minutes long.

5. Who teaches the course?

All 3 courses are taught by T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Thomas Campbell (authors of The China Study), but I would say that in reality, over half the video lectures are delivered by guest lecturers. The quality of the videos range too, from charismatic speakers to scientists who used a lot of disfluencies (“uhm,” etc). The content is still good, but sometimes it was hard to pay attention.

6. What will I actually learn?

Personally, I did not gain a lot of new information by taking this course. But that is because I already read The China Study and have been living a plant-based lifestyle for a while. I live and breathe this kind of information. However, there is a lot of information packed into these courses! Here are just some of the topics you will cover over the 6 weeks:

  • How whole food, plant-based (WFPB) is different from vegan
  • The stages of cancer and how it forms in the body
  • Formation of and diet’s effect on diabetes, diabesity, obesity, cancer and heart disease
  • What causes diabetes and the link between diabetes and animal proteins
  • Chemical structure and purpose of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the human body
  • Which supplements are necessary and which aren’t
  • Why you should eliminate all added oil from your diet (but not heart-healthy fats!)
  • Pesticides, herbicides, and their effect on your body and the environment
  • How the government affects the food industry and dietary recommendations
  • The state of health in the USA
  • The science behind diet and weight loss
  • Practical tips on how to adopt a WFPB diet
  • And more!

7. How and when do I get my official Certificate?

Even if you finish your last 2-week course in one day, you still need to wait the full 2 weeks to receive your certificate. Once the entire course concludes, eCornell will email you a link to print your certificate. If you want them to mail you a hard copy, it costs an additional $35, and it is literally the same thing as just printing it yourself. I just saved a soft copy in my Google Drive. This is what it looks like:

Screenshot 2017-07-18 at 7.35.32 AM

Pros

  • 100% online and mostly self-paced
  • Video lectures–fold laundry while you watch!
  • Unlimited attempts on all quizzes and short answer responses
  • Real-time support staff available for questions
  • Continuing Education credit available for healthcare professionals
  • All information is science-backed and well researched
  • Objective lectures–no dogmatic or evangelist vegans

Cons

  • You cannot watch videos any faster than 1.0. No speeding up slow talkers to 1.5x or 2x the speed.
  • Lots of repeat information/charts from The China Study book
  • Entire 3rd course is not helpful for those who are already vegan
  • No comprehensive exam or another method to retain information
  • Course content disappears after course concludes (unless you download slides and audio transcripts, but you lose videos)–no lifetime access!
  • Expensive!

Overall Takeaway

I would not recommend this course to anyone who is just looking to gain information and learn about plant-based nutrition. If you fall into that category, I recommend you save your money and instead buy The China Study (make sure to get the updated version with the latest science), written by the creators of this course. It contains nearly as much information. Check out my recommended books page for other book recommendations (I am constantly updating that list!).

If you are already vegan and live a plant-based lifestyle and do not work in the industry, this course might not be for you. Again, I recommend instead reading The China Study. It will take less time, cost way less, and provide just as much relevant information. Also, the entire 3rd course (last 2 weeks of certification) is basically “how to be vegan,” with testimonials from other vegans, which is not very helpful for those who already follow a plant-based lifestyle.

If you are looking for CE credits or want to supplement a health coaching or other wellness practice, this course could be for you. I fall into that category. I took this course to supplement my Health Coach training. I find it helpful to be able to tell clients that I have an ivy league certification in plant-based nutrition, as it builds my credentials and demonstrates my level of commitment and knowledge in this field.

Have you completed this certification course? What did you think? I would love to hear about your experience! If you have any other questions, post in the comments below and I will answer 🙂

27 thoughts on “eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification: an honest review

  1. Ashley, I took the course for exactly the same reason! I was not in training to become a health coach at the time, but I am a registered nurse and already committed to a wfpb/vegan lifestyle, and wanted that extra “official” education and credibility—(health coaching was in the back of my mind). I enjoyed the course, especially the scientific evidence provided to support the claims of all the benefits of wfpb. I haven’t read The China Study yet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thanks, Jenny! I highly recommend The China Study! If you check out my Books list (look in main menu), I like to the latest edition. I’d love to hear what you think.

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  2. Hi Ashley
    Thanks for your article.
    I have been going to enrol in this course for the last 2 months but haven’t?? I am WFPB vegan and I’m passionate about it and its benefits. I want to become a health coach focusing on WFPB. I am worried i will already know much of the information. It is more the certificate i am after… Ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing! What do you feel like is missing from your knowledge of WFPB? Have you read The China Study? What will having the certificate do for you? How will the certificate change your value as a coach (or will it?)?

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  3. Hello Ashley,
    Thank you for your review. It’s very helpfull.
    I wanted to follow this course, because I want to learn how to have and apply a WFPB diet (I want to do it on the right way) and how to explain to other.
    As you may know, we can find many informations on internet, the pros and cons are very strong, and it’s hard to be sure what to do. So that’s why I want to learn how to become, to learn step-by-step : what we need, what we don’t need, which supplement we have to take, etc …
    Also I need to understand how it works in ordre to be able to discuss with people, friends, family …
    As I’m not a coach (in a future, i would like), this course is only for my personnal use.
    After reading your review, i think it would be more effective to read carefully some books like the “China study” and the last one from Dr Greger “How not to die”.
    If you have any recommandations to learn the WFPB diet and miss nothing 🙂 i would be grateful.
    Thanks again for your article and your books list too.
    Pierre-M

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found the review helpful! I would definitely recommend starting with those few books. If you are just wanting information, reading books is a more affordable way to get it 🙂

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  4. hi, I was wondering if anyone could elaborate on what “activities” are required, I read on Robert Cheeke’s website about the writing assignments he had to do, like writing a letter to your Congress person for example. ..and many other assignments. I was told by eCornell that there are no writing assignments. Can anyone clarify this?

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    1. No required assignments like that. There were a few written assignments that you type into the online learning platform, like short answer/essay type questions. All very simple though. Definitely did not have to write to a congressman.

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      1. thank you so much for quick reply, I am not down with writing papers, no time for that. haha. MindBodyGreen now offers “Advanced Functional Nutrition” program. I have been deciding between the two. thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. No it is not, but the syllabus seems much more what I am interested in learning more about. The “Expert” panel is impressive. It takes longer, they recommend 25 weeks. check it out….mindbodygreen.com

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi! I am currently looking into this course. I LOVE Dr. Campbell, and have already read/watched tons of his research and talks, books, videos, etc. I already live a WFPB vegan lifestyle, and I would only be doing this for the certification, so when I start looking for a part time job in the health and wellness industry, it sounds and looks good! I have no other degree or certification, this would be my only “official’ education. Do you think it would still be worth it? Or did you find it better as an addition to what you already do? I am also looking into the Certified Holistic Nutrition programs, offered at American College of Healthcare Sciences and American Fitness Professionals and Associates. Have you heard anything about those? Thanks so much for any info or advice you may have!

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    1. What type of job are you looking for? In my experience, this specific certificate doesn’t actually qualify you for anything. It could be a resume builder, but honestly so many jobs in the health and wellness don’t require or expect anything like this. The health coach company I worked for had a ton of college interns working there with no experience or certificates. They just had passion. I’d apply to jobs now and just include your knowledge/skills on your resume. Personally, without a bachelor’s degree, this certificate isn’t much better than nothing.

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  6. i was wondering about taking this course because i took the institute for integrative nutrition course. that was in 2011 though and i haven’t done anything with it since. i also read your comment above and wondered how you got a job working for a health coach company. anytime i see advertisements for those it ends up being something where you’re selling a product 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you already have your health coach certification, I would personally recommend just reading The China Study. This course is basically that book in video format. I would save your money. The Certification doesn’t really matter in the real world. The job I had was health coaching for a local nonprofit. No sales. But with that said, the pay was very low and the hours were limited. I have a friend who does online health coaching with noom.com. This certification will not really help you get that kind of job if you already have IIN. I would just brush up on your knowledge by reading books. That’s just my opinion though 🙂 Hope that helps!

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  7. Great article, thanks Ash! I’ve been looking at doing a plant based nutrition course to supplement my own knowledge and my passions as a plant based yoga teacher. I’ve been vegan nearly two years. The course sounds great but I can’t afford it at the moment, plus I live in the UK and this seems more USA focused. I will definitely look for the China study but is there anything else you can recommend /any UK courses you know of?
    Thank you! Abby

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! If you’re just looking to learn, I HIGHLY recommend reading The China Study. I’m not familiar with other courses that are the same caliber. As for this course being USA focused, I’m not sure… Nutrition seems universal to me, and considering this course doesn’t directly lead to any specific job afterwards (although it does give CE credits for nurses and health practitioners), I think it’s just as appropriate in the UK as it is in the US. Correct me if I’m wrong! Maybe there’s a difference. Anyway, I personally recommend reading The China Study to learn more about this exciting research. He also wrote a follow-up book called “Whole.” You may want to check that out, too.

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  8. Thank you for the honest review. I read “The China Study”, watched a few documentaries and have been living a WFPB life ever since. I think the only reason I was looking into this course was so I could have a certificate in my back pocket, so to speak. I recently taught a class for the ladies at church about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their diet and it would have been nice to say I had certification of some sort. I live in the busy Bay Area of California where everyone is especially concerned with degrees and “proof” of knowledge. After reading your review, I’m thinking I’ll hold off for now. I have the knowledge from all the books I’ve read and I’m very passionate about this lifestyle, but I’m not sure I need the certification at this point in my life. Thank you again for your review. Very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love this, thanks for commenting! I also live in the Bay Area, so I absolutely know what you mean about feeling the need for something “official.” Keep up with what you’re doing!

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